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TED and YouTube launch global climate initiative Dec 5, 2019 highlights & change & systems & crowdsourcing

Anyone, anywhere can propose an idea. YouTube creators will help spread the word, and the best proposals could be put into motion with the help of businesses, policymakers, and and celebrities supporting the initiative.

The initiative will culminate in a summit in Bergen, Norway next October to share the solutions that came out of the effort. Countdown will work with a panel of experts and scientists to vet proposals, and the strongest will be turned into TED talks. The talks will be filmed at the summit in Norway, in front of a hand-picked audience capable of turning those ideas into action,” according to a press release.

An interesting partnership, and yet another example of crowdsolving”: trying to find solutions to wicked problems via the mobilizing power of the Internet.

I certainly expect to see some concepts from Drawdown on stage.

The ‘Amazon effect’ is flooding a struggling recycling system with cardboard Dec 2, 2019 highlights & change & systems

Chinaʼs 2017 decision to turn away Americaʼs trash has left the recycling industry reeling as it figures out what to do with all the packaging online shoppers leave behind.

Recycling is a funny thing. For me, it’s almost a guilt-free act. Sure, I’m using all of these boxes, but they’re recycled, so who cares?” But increasingly recycling and the trash bin seem like equivalent destinations. It’s even imaginable that recycling is worse, because recycled objects might travel farther before being dumped into a landfill anyway.

Itʼs very difficult for American material recovery facilities to satisfy that standard because Americans put plastic bags and chewing gum and bowling balls and dirty diapers and everything else you can imagine into the recycling containers,” Biderman says. The strict rules also apply to plastic and other recyclables, but cardboard and mixed paper have seen the sharpest drops in prices.

I’m tempted to blame people: It’s too bad we can’t be more considerate. Have you ever looked in the recycling bins in public receptacles?” Et cetera. But really, we should be designing systems that make this easy—or incentivize good behaviours somehow. Either way, the current situation is insufficient:

There has also been a noticeable shift in the source of the cardboard, says Coupland: itʼs coming from peoplesʼ homes instead of brick-and-mortar businesses. Thatʼs bad news, since retailers are less likely to generate cardboard thatʼs too filthy to be recycled. Consumersʼ cardboard boxes are often mixed with other, dirty recyclables like ketchup bottles or soda cans that spill their contents over the cardboard. On average, about 25 to 30 percent of the materials picked up by a recycling truck are too contaminated to go anywhere but a landfill or incinerator, Coupland says.

John Kerry, Arnold Schwarzenegger wage ‘World War Zero’ on climate change Dec 2, 2019 change & systems & activism & highlights

Today former Secretary of State John Kerry and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared war on climate change. The two led an all-star cast of lawmakers and celebrities to launch an initiative called World War Zero, which aims to get individuals, businesses, and governments to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative, for now, boasts a lot of glitzy names without many details on how it will achieve its goal. Its bipartisan founding members — which include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson, Jimmy Fallon, Cindy McCain, and Al Sharpton, and more than 70 other notable names — plan to hold 10 million climate conversations” in 2020, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

Seems like an incredible effort. And it’s an excellent angle. War”—when declared by major public figures—certainly catches the public attention.

Kerry compared the urgency of climate change to the challenges facing America during World War II. When America was attacked in World War II we set aside our differences, united and mobilized to face down our common enemy,” Kerry said in a statement. We are launching World War Zero to bring that spirit of unity, common purpose, and urgency back to the world today to fight the great threat of our time.”

Of course, actually waging war doesn’t always garner the unity or have the results we aim for, especially when it’s a war against a social issue.

2019 Tech Trends Report — The Future Today Institute Nov 29, 2019 futures & highlights & change & tech

This report is intentionally broad and robust. We have included a list of adjacent uncertainties, a detailed analysis of 315 tech trends, a collection of weak signals for 2020, and more than four dozen scenarios describing plausible near futures.

Impressive work. I particularly like the CIPHER heuristic they use in analysis signals: contradictions, infections, practices, hacks, extremes, rarities.

Medical Crowdsourcing: Harnessing the “Wisdom of the Crowd” to Solve Medical Mysteries Nov 29, 2019 highlights & crowdsourcing & tech & change

Medical crowdsourcing offers hope to patients who suffer from complex health conditions that are difficult to diagnose. Such crowdsourcing platforms empower patients to harness the wisdom of the crowd” by providing access to a vast pool of diverse medical knowledge.

An interesting application of crowdsourcing. What’s the incentive for healthcare providers to participate, though? I’m not sure doctors can bill for participation in Figure 1. I think the main reason they engage at all is curiosity, and that would likely degrade if, as the authors of the linked study discuss, there was a lot of noise” from uninteresting posts by patients who aren’t medically literate.

Former Go champion beaten by DeepMind retires after declaring AI invincible Nov 27, 2019 highlights & tech & change

The South Korean Go champion Lee Se-dol has retired from professional play, telling Yonhap news agency that his decision was motivated by the ascendancy of AI. With the debut of AI in Go games, Iʼve realized that Iʼm not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” Lee told Yonhap. Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.”

Wow. Perhaps the first real example of AI took my job?”

MTA floods NYC subway entrance because ‘climate change is real’ Nov 22, 2019 highlights & change

An incredible story out of New York today, as reported by The Verge:

A flooded subway entrance stopped Brooklyn commuters in their tracks yesterday. For four hours on Wednesday, the staircase leading down to Broadway Station in Williamsburg was blocked off and completely submerged. The sight was even stranger since it hadnʼt rained in New York City that day.

The Transit Authority was testing adaptations they’d installed in case of real flooding. Still, I’m sure that the social/informational impact was felt, too.

Also, the MTAs sarcastic explanation is gold. From Twitter:

We’re pivoting to submarines. ^JLP

The Demon Haunted World Nov 21, 2019 highlights & science & systems & change

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

Carl Sagan, as quoted by @Andromeda321 in this interesting Reddit thread on the regretful trends of the 2010s.

The thread discusses the growth of anti-intellectualism and conspiracy theories. I’m reminded of this timeless Medium post about how hating Ross in Friends became a meme in and of itself, reinforcing the persecution of science in the 90s. From David Hopkins:

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, led by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

[…]

If you remember the 1990s and early 2000s, and you lived near a television set, then you remember Friends. Friends was the Thursday night primetime, must-see-TV” event that featured the most likable ensemble ever assembled by a casting agent: all young, all middle class, all white, all straight, all attractive (but approachable), all morally and politically bland, and all equipped with easily digestible personas. Joey is the goofball. Chandler is the sarcastic one. Monica is obsessive-compulsive. Phoebe is the hippie. Rachel, hell, I don’t know, Rachel likes to shop. Then there was Ross. Ross was the intellectual and the romantic.

Eventually, the Friends audience — roughly 52.5 million people — turned on Ross. But the characters of the show were pitted against him from the beginning (consider episode 1, when Joey says of Ross: This guy says hello, I wanna kill myself.”) In fact, any time Ross would say anything — about his interests, his studies, his ideas — whenever he was mid-sentence, one of his friends” was sure to groan and say how boring Ross was, how stupid it is to be smart, and that nobody cares. Cue the laughter of the live studio audience. This gag went on, pretty much every episode, for 10 seasons. Can you blame Ross for going crazy?

People in the Reddit thread point out that these seemingly recent trends have been taking root for a long time. While this is true, it’s also true that (just like seemingly everything else) these phenomena have been moving much faster and growing much larger in recent years. Which leads to a curious tangent: how do accelerated scales of change play on our biases? Does the interaction between these biases and our accelerated experiences change our perception of the world?

Fukushima reinvents itself with a $2.7 billion bet on renewables Nov 15, 2019 highlights & change & systems

Land that became too toxic for people to farm and live on after the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station will soon be dotted with windmills and solar panels.

The Fukushima disaster unfolded as an incredible story of systemic response to new scales of tragedy. Take, for instance, the Skilled Veterans Corps: a group of elderly volunteers who helped with cleanup, knowing that the damaging radiation would have less impact on their lives than it would on younger volunteers.

Now Fukushima’s next chapter is evolving as an example of systemic creative destruction, as new opportunities are unlocked by the collapse of the region’s previous energy strategy.

Resources → education & resources & systems & design & futures & change Updated Nov 14, 2019 Below I’m collecting a set of resources dealing with a variety of topics for shareable reference—a sort of living,
How Tesla’s first Gigafactory is changing Reno, Nevada Nov 13, 2019 highlights & tech & change

In the five years that weʼve had to asses the effect [the Gigafactory has] had on the workforce, on the community, I think there have been these ramifications that we talk about in the episode that nobody was really prepared for,” Damon said in an interview with The Verge. Like, we knew there was going to be an issue with housing, which other cities are experiencing, too. But thatʼs become super critical.”

Side-effects of growth are not a new problem, but the massive initiatives we’re seeing recently might spark new varieties of old issues.

README.txt: Introducing Into the Dataverse, the article series Nov 8, 2019 highlights & data & tech & change

There is a significant gap in research about Canadian data collection activities on a granular scale. This lack of knowledge regarding data collection practices within Canada hinders the ability of policymakers, civil society organizations, and the private sector to respond appropriately to the challenges and harness unrealized benefits.

So true. This looks like an interesting series from the great team at Brookfield.